Raina anchors chase
MS Dhoni walked out to bat amid the customary ovation. Piyush Chawla had trapped Kedar Jadhav leg-before and Chennai Super Kings were under pressure at 81/4 in the 12th over. The skipper usually chooses circumspection at the start of innings these days. On Sunday, at Eden Gardens, he decided to attack Kuldeep Yadav. A mishit fell in the no man’s land. But the next ball went 15 rows back over long-on.
Suresh Raina targeted Chawla at the other end, taking a four and a six off the leg-spinner. They were putting the pressure back on Kolkata Knight Riders. Dinesh Karthik’s defensive captaincy was a deterrent to his team’s cause. At a time when he should have tried to grab the game by the scruff of its neck, Karthik let it slip a bit.
Still, Sunil Narine managed to pull things back with a delivery that spun back and caught Dhoni plumb in front. Super Kings still required 41 runs off 26 balls. Raina, however, anchored the chase with 58 not out off 42 deliveries. Ravindra Jadeja laid into Harry Gurney in the penultimate over with three consecutive boundaries. Chasing 162 for victory, Super Kings were through with two balls remaining because they had more international experience and big-match players in their ranks, and also a great captain. The batters finished the job, but a 40-year-old leg-spinner had set up this win.
Tahir spins web
Last month, when the Cricket South Africa (CSA) put out the list of their contracted players, Imran Tahir was a notable omission, along with JP Duminy and Chris Morris. At the post-match press conference today, Tahir revealed that he told the CSA not to include him in the list, as this would be his last World Cup. He wanted to give opportunities to the youngsters.
Tahir, however, is not hanging up his boots yet. He is still enjoying the game, which his celebratory runs would attest. The leggie is also revelling in his IPL success. Little wonder that MS Dhoni has compared Tahir with wine that matures with time.
He has taken his tally to 13 wickets in eight matches, conceding less than six runs per over. On Sunday, the Super Kings’ ‘spin doctor’ ran through the Knight Riders batting, returning with his career-best IPL figures yet — 4/27.
His achievement assumes greater significance given the fact that Eden Gardens’ pitches are featherbeds this term, where spinners collectively accounted for just six wickets in the previous three matches. Tahir, though, is a different kettle of fish. Credit goes to Dhoni as well, because he stuck to his strength and played three spinners even on this surface. And although Ravindra Jadeja had an off day, Tahir more than made up for the lapse. Mitchell Santner complemented the veteran leggie very well, but he was a support cast in the show.
It felt like Super Kings were playing a home match. Yellow in the stands dwarfed Knight Riders’ purple. The stadium reverberated with ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ chants and Tahir helped magnify the volume with his wickets and his high-octane celebrations. He was also serving up double whammies.
Nitish Rana’s eyes lit up as he saw a flighted delivery from Tahir. The left-hander swung, but the ball had dipped. Faf du Plessis had an easy catch at long-on. Two deliveries hence, du Plessis took a blinder to dismiss Robin Uthappa. The batsman didn’t read the leg-break. He tried to clear the straight boundary but got a leading edge. Du Plessis ran in about 30 yards from long-off, dived forward and got his fingers underneath the ball. Such was Tahir’s confidence in his compatriot that he had his arms raised as soon as the ball went up in the air. It was the 11th over during Knight Riders’ innings and Tahir’s second. His first spell read: 2-0-8-2.
Another double-strike came in the 15th over. Dhoni initially wanted Santner to bowl it, but after some discussion between the skipper, Santner and Tahir, the latter was given the job. Chris Lynn was batting on 82 and his aggression, on the eve of Australia’s World Cup squad selection, had been threatening to take the game away from the visitors. He had three consecutive sixes off Jadeja in the previous over. Tahir had to be brought back.
After bowling a wide, the leggie removed Lynn, with Shardul Thakur taking an excellent catch at deep square leg. Eden erupted as Andre Russell walked out to bat. He smashed the first ball to the deep mid-wicket boundary followed by a monstrous six over long-on. Tahir’s response was superb. He lured the Knight Riders hitman with flight but shortened the length. For a compulsive hitter like Russell, adjustment remains a tough act. He went through his shot but didn’t get the elevation. Substitute Dhruv Shorey took a stunner at long-on. Outwitted, Russell vented his ire on the manicured lawn on his way to the pavilion. “I took the challenge. I wanted to get him (Russell) out,” Tahir later said.
The hosts could manage only 29 runs in 31 balls and lost three more wickets after Russell departed. Their overdependence on the Jamaican was exposed. Tahir, on the other hand, ran away with the Man of the Match award. “He (Tahir) keeps things simple. He doesn’t give you any bad balls. He is showing that age is just a number,” even Knight Riders coach Jacques Kallis was full of praise.